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Energy bills flood North Carolina legislature at deadline  

Credit:  By John Downey, Charlotte Business Journal, www.bizjournals.com 20 April 2011 ~~

Legislators filed a raft of energy bills in the N.C. State Senate Tuesday, including an ambitious offshore wind bill that would require contracts for 2,500 megawatts of wind generations by 2017.

Other bills would:

•Allow owners of renewable energy projects rated at two megwatts or fewer of capacity to sell power directly to customers without being regulated as a utility,

•Encourage the exploration for natural gas both off shore and on land in North Carolina

•Revamp the Energy Policy Council into an Energy Jobs Council focused on creating new energy industry opportunities in the state.

There is also a bill to establish a small demonstrator wind farm – 60 megawatts or fewer – in Northwestern North Carolina. The project would be associated with Appalachian State University. The project would have to be approved by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and would be exempt from the restrictions of the N.C. Ridge Law.

That law, preventing tall structures on mountain ridges, currently bans construction of commercial scale windmills on the mountain tops best suited for development.

Deadline passed

Tuesday was the deadline for filing major legislation to be considered in this session of the state legislature. It is not clear what the prospects are for any of these bills.

Many of the proposals had been considered by the N.C. Energy Policy Council earlier this year, but were left out of that groups recommendations because it was unable to get utility representatives to agree to many of them.

There was also concern on the part of the council that the General Assembly, facing issues such balancing the state budget and Congressional redistricting, would not be willing to take on major energy legislation.

Fast track for wind

The most sweeping bill is called the Offshore Wind Jobs and Economic Development Act (most the bills have the word “jobs” in their title).

Sponsored by State Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, it calls on the N.C. Utilities Commission to require state utilities to make long-term contracts with for 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind capacity to be built over a period of seven to ten years. The bill says the first off-shore project must start producing power by Dec. 31, 2017.

The bill says the commission must issue a request for proposals by Jan. 1 soliciting bids to build the wind generators off the North Carolina Coast. Responses, it says, would be due by April 30, 2012. The requests are to be reviewed and bids awarded by Oct. 31.

Source:  By John Downey, Charlotte Business Journal, www.bizjournals.com 20 April 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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